Gale Spragg has worn a number of labels during her life — some temporary, others permanent.

Among those labels include teenage mom, high school dropout, housekeeper, cashier, the suicide survivor and domestic violence survivor. This year, at age 45, she has added another label. This one permanent.

High school graduate.

“This is something I have earned, it is mine and no one can take it from me,” Spragg said.

As she completed high school — one year after her traditional class gathered for its 25-year reunion — she made good on a promise she made to Bud and Virginia Adams, her grandparents.

“My grandfather passed away in 2006, my grandmother passed away in 2010. They were my rock,” Spragg said. “When I dropped out, they said they understood. ... I made them a promise that I would finish high school.”

When Spragg was 18, she got pregnant and dropped out of high school. She was in her final semester at Newton High School.  She promised her grandparents that she would go back to school to get her diploma, but as the years passed, life got in the way - she had a second child, found herself in an abusive marriage and hit rock bottom, even attempting suicide.

She became a grandmother and worked to support herself and family. For more than two decades, it never felt like the right time to go back to school.

“I was scared to start school again,” Spragg said. “I wondered how I was going to do all of this, but I found time. … If you wait for the time to be right, it will never come.”

She said she always knew going back to school was an option. But she wanted a high school diploma, not a GED and life kept getting in the way. Her answer was to enroll in an online high school program called Insight School of Kansas.

“To me, all these years, people said ‘just go get your GED.’ I did not want a GED,” Spragg said. “I went back and earned all of my credits and I earned my high school diploma.”

Insight School of Kansas is an online school, offering classes at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The school is designed to offer to teach from state-certified teachers and students to earn a high school diplma— not an academic equivalent. 

She collected that diploma at a ceremony about a week ago at Spring Hill High School. Several of her family and closest friends were on hand to see her walk across a stage in cap and gown to collect her diploma.

“They are all very proud of me,” Spragg said.

She is now thinking about what comes next. She is looking at college and a career change.

“I want to move forward and do something with social work,” Spragg said. “My ultimate goal is to be a domestic violence advocate, not only for women - there are men out there too. I feel that I have been through it, I can understand and I can sympathize. I have been to the bottom, I know what the bottom is.”